.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

My Photo
Location: Bracknell Towers

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The droghte of March

It has recently come to Lady Bracknell's attention that there exists a blog suitable for those readers who find her ladyship's own prose style to be somewhat too modern and avant garde for their linguistic tastes: Geoffrey Chaucer has joined the blogosphere!

There has, perforce, been a considerable gap between the publication of the Canterbury Tales and Mr Chaucer's current work, but Lady Bracknell is pleased to note that the gentleman in question has lost none of his wit or sense of mischief during the intervening centuries. Indeed, she would go so far as to say that Mr Chaucer demonstrates an admirably sprightly intellect for one of his advanced years.

Lady Bracknell's own familiarity with Mr Chaucer's earlier works is, she is ashamed to admit, limited to the prologue to the Canterbury Tales and the Pardoner's Tale, both of which formed part of her A level English literature syllabus.

At Lady Bracknell's alma mater, the A level English course was in the hands of two very different teachers. Miss M, a spinster of desiccated appearance, woollen cardigans and uncertain age, was exceedingly uncomfortable with any literary references to bodily functions or worldly lusts. Whilst her preferred texts therefore consisted of anything written by either Jane Austen or John Donne, she could, if the need arose, extend her scope to the works of Mr Shakespeare, as long as she had the option to gloss over anything unseemly or unhygienic.

(Miss M chiefly concerned herself with the school library. Lady Bracknell remembers as though it were yesterday the occasion on which Miss M explained the correct way to turn the pages of a library book. This feat can indeed be accomplished without any danger of soiling the page one wishes to turn. But not, in Lady Bracknell's opinion, without a concomitant reduction in the pleasure one might otherwise derive from actually reading the book.)

Mr G, on the other hand, revelled in the seamier side of the literary classics to a rather disturbing degree. When introducing the character of Edmund in King Lear, for instance, he was noticeably disappointed to be cheated of his opportunity to explain in enthusiastic detail what a bastard is when the entire Lower Sixth English class admitted that they were already well-acquainted with the dictionary definition.

As Miss M would very likely have succumbed to a fit of the vapours had she been called upon to provide an exegesis of the more vulgar aspects of Mr Chaucer's work, it fell to Mr G to cover that part of the syllabus. Unfortunately, Mr G combined a high degree of confidence in his ability to pronounce Chaucer's English correctly with a rather ill-fitting set of dentures. With the result that, as the young Lady Bracknell, being something of a "swot", sat in the front row of his lessons, her memories of studying Chaucer are forever marred with the recollection of being covered in a fine spray of saliva.

Her own experiences of Chaucer aversion therapy during her formative years notwithstanding, Lady Bracknell is pleased to recommend the literary giant's blog to her readers.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lady Bracknell emerges, blinking, into the light

After an exceedingly wretched couple of weeks spent shivering in her bedchamber under the duvet accompanied only by five boxed sets of Babylon 5 DVDs, several gallons of soup, and an ever-dwindling supply of library books, Lady Bracknell has this week ventured forth into the great outdoors – in a somewhat trepidatious manner – to attend a variety of medical appointments. Her ladyship’s continuing frailty has precluded travel by omnibus, with the result that she has spent the better part of fifty pounds sterling on hansom cab fares.

She had her chest x-rayed on Monday: a somewhat bizarre experience necessitating stripping to the waist; donning a hospital gown of a quite execrable style and fit; compressing her capacious bosom against a plated device; and having a bright light flashed against her from behind. This process had to be repeated, as her capacious bosom had not been adequately compressed in the first instance.

Tuesday was the occasion of a much-overdue and sorely-needed visit to the osteopathic gentleman. Dude the chauffeur being himself confined to bed (one simply cannot get the staff), the journey was somewhat rigorous, and Lady Bracknell was very much exhausted the following day.

The house adjacent to Bracknell Towers has been undergoing noisy renovation for many months now. It feels to Lady Bracknell as though this work has been going on since the Dawn of Time, but she is assured by the owner of the property that it started as recently as last September and that it is nearly finished. Be that as it may, at about 10.30 on Thursday morning workmen started to knock down the garage. Lady Bracknell and her feline companion became aware of this at the moment when tons of tumbling bricks caused the foundations of Bracknell Towers to shake in a disconcerting fashion. (It would appear that no brick building can be razed to the ground in this day and age sans the accompaniment of one of the less intellectually-rigorous local radio stations being played at a volume sufficient to be audible above the noise of destruction.)

Lady Bracknell, who bows to no man or woman in the matter of sensitivity to noise, decided to vacate Bracknell Towers rather earlier than was actually necessary in order to attend the eyesight examination which was scheduled for one o'clock. Her feline companion having no such opportunity to vacate the premises, Lady Bracknell imagines that she must have hidden under the bed with her paws in her ears until the last brick had fallen to the ground.

Arriving in the city centre somewhat earlier than planned, Lady Bracknell took the opportunity to visit her bank and deposit the sizeable cheque which her esteemed father had sent her by way of a birthday gift. That done, she pottered somewhat aimlessly around the streets in an attempt to kill time. (Any readers who have done this themselves will be aware that, while it takes ten minutes to admire the goods in a shop window if one is in a hurry, it takes only about five seconds to exhaust their attractions fully should one be early for an appointment.) But Lady Bracknell should not really grumble, given that her aimless loitering rewarded her with a glimpse of Ken Dodd in the flesh.

Eventually, sufficient time had passed for Lady Bracknell to bend her steps towards Blankstone's Magnificent Optical Emporium. (The website for this most welcoming of establishments is currently under construction, but Lady Bracknell has instructed her editor to provide a link to it once its pages contain anything of note.) Lady Bracknell was soon provided with a cup of coffee and invited by the charming Mr Blankstone to "show him her wares". (This invitation related, of course, to the spectacle frames which the editor had ordered on Lady Bracknell's instructions from the interwebnet: there is nothing improper in Mr Blankstone's dealings with his customers.)

It has long been Lady Bracknell's preference to patronise small businesses over large chains wherever practicable. Unfortunately, her physical frailties quite often override her principles on this point. After all, when one needs to have one's groceries delivered to one's door, one has no option but to call on the services of Mr Sainsbury or Mr Tesco. But in the matter of opticians, Lady Bracknell stands firm. When one wishes to co-ordinate one's spectacle frames with one's handsome walking sticks, one must pay great attention to the calibre of frames one purchases. A shop from a large chain of opticians will display a great many spectacle frames, but none will have the individuality which a perfectionist such as her ladyship seeks.

Also, when Lady Bracknell is preparing to spend several hundreds of pounds, she chooses to do so in an establishment in which she is recognised and greeted by name when she arrives. The fact of having worked in the service industry herself in her youth has rendered Lady Bracknell peculiarly sensitive to standards of customer care. She had used to frequent a more local optician, but has removed her custom from them in light of the unwelcoming attitude of their receptionist, a woman for whom customers were clearly an inconvenience which interfered in her lengthy telephone conversations with her family and friends.

Mr Blankstone and his staff offering an exceptionally high level of care and consideration for their customers, Lady Bracknell need look no further for an optical establishment to frequent. These beautiful spectacles having been ordered, Lady Bracknell hopes to return within the week to collect them and, if necessary, have them adjusted to fit her aristocratic visage.

Lady Bracknell wishes to extend her grateful thanks to all those who asked after her, or who wished her well, during her extended absence from what she believes is called, "the blogosphere". Although not yet quite restored to full health, she is well on the road to recovery. Blog entries may remain sparse for the immediate future, but Lady Bracknell will write again when stamina permits.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's all relative...

Next Wednesday, Lady Bracknell will be travelling to one of the local tertiary education institutions in order to deliver what she believes is called "a workshop" on disability and employment. To which end she has been dusting off her collection of illustrative magic-lantern slides and updating them to reflect the legislative changes which have taken place since they were last used.

One of the issues which has to be covered first in any such presentation is, of course, the legal definition of being disabled. Many students who have impairments such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or Asperger's syndrome have fallen into the trap so deftly constructed for them by the media of equating disability only with wheelchairs (and possibly guide dogs). They do not consider themselves to be disabled, which means they are unlikely to avail themselves of the protection which the Disability Discrimination Act affords them once they have graduated and found gainful employment. (Naturally, this state of affairs is somewhat akin to a red rag to a bull to Lady Bracknell, with the result that she makes it her business to overcome any such misconceptions.)

If one is explaining the DDA definition of disability to a rapt audience, one will occasionally have cause to stray into those conditions which are specifically and explicitly excluded from that definition.

Lady Bracknell has been given to understand by a lawyer, whose word she has no reason to doubt, that "a tendency to set fires" was specifically excluded from the DDA definition of disability not because it wasn't considered to be a serious impairment, but rather because the legislators felt they really couldn't impose a duty on employers to take on pyromaniacal persons.

One can imagine the scenario:

Employer: "Right! That's it! You have burned down the factory my father spent fifty years building up from scratch, and you're fired!"

Employee: "Have you forgotten I'm disabled? Setting fire to a large building every six months or so is a reasonable adjustment for me. I'll see you at the Employment Tribunal!"

But Lady Bracknell digresses. She remembers an occasion when she and a certain Mr W had been invited to speak at a conference. Those present were divided into small groups after the initial presentations so that they could discuss the issues in more depth. The worthy woman leading the group which Lady Bracknell had the good fortune to be observing read the list of excluded conditions to her small flock. When she reached "seasonal allergies", one young man was appalled.

"But there's nothing more disabling than hay fever!", he cried.

Now, Lady Bracknell was a martyr to hay fever in her youth. She never sat an important examination without being drugged to the eyeballs on anti-histamines. Exam questions swam before her streaming eyes. The pockets of her school uniform overflowed with sodden handkerchieves. Her nasal passages were so congested that sleep was but a distant memory. Indeed, the sneezing was so bad one year that she damaged her throat, and has spoken in a lower register ever since.

Nevertheless, she could still walk, see and hear. She could communicate easily with other persons. She experienced no muscle tremors or spasms, and no physical pain. Her balance, co-ordination and continence were unaffected. Her nervous system remained intact. She retained control over all her major bodily functions. She experienced no dramatic mood swings beyond those associated with broken sleep.

The innocent belief (expressed, of course, by a non-disabled young man who gave every indication of being at the peak of physical fitness) that nothing could be more disabling than hay fever makes Lady Bracknell feel like hitting her head repeatedly against a brick wall.

On the other hand, she is tempted to some degree to use it as an ironic mantra when things are particularly bad.

Perhaps, after an especially difficult day, when he has been tucked up in bed by one of his team of personal assistants, Professor Steven Hawking smiles to himself, and says, "Oh, well. Mustn't grumble. It could be worse. I could have hay fever".